Right-Wing Media Ignore Evidence To Claim Obamacare Influenced Virginia Election

››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

Right-wing media claimed opposition to the Affordable Care Act influenced the Virginia governor election despite polls that show the health reform law was an insignificant factor in the race.

Right-Wing Media Claim ACA Opposition Significantly Changed VA Electoral Results

Fox's Stephen Hayes: "No Doubt" The ACA Contributed To The Election Results On the November 7 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Stephen Hayes claimed that problems with the Obamacare rollout is causing Democrats to distance themselves from the law. He claimed that the law's unpopularity will have implications on future elections adding "no doubt it contributed to the close margin in Virginia." [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 11/7/13]

Fox Guest Guy Benson: One Of The Reasons That Terry McAuliffe Didn't Walk Away With This" Is Because Of Obamacare. Appearing on Fox News, Townhall.com political editor Guy Benson claimed that the reason Democrat Terry McAuliffe won this "squeaker" over Republican Ken Cuccinelli was because Obamacare didn't allow him to "walk away with this election." [Fox News, The Real Story, 11/6/13]

Fox & Friends Attributes Cuccinelli's Narrow Loss To Opposition Against Obamacare. During the November 6 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade attributed the close result in the race to the ACA, saying "What happened? We started taking a magnifying glass -- or just taking a glance at the disaster which is the launch that is Obamacare." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/6/13]

Fox News.com: "Obamacare Woes Shadow Vote" In Virginia. FoxNews.com highlighted a Associated Press article under the headline "McAuliffe barely wins in Virginia as ObamaCare woes shadow vote":

 

[Fox News, 11/6/13]

National Review: Cuccinelli Finished Stronger "Because He Was Gaining Traction From The Implosion Of Obamacare." A November 6 National Review blog post by Charmaine Yoest claimed Cuccinelli "finished dramatically stronger than expected" because of "the implosion of Obamacare": 

He came up short, but finished dramatically stronger than expected, largely because he was gaining traction from the implosion of Obamacare. Terry McAuliffe doubled down on his support for the failed Affordable Care Act, and lost his double-digit lead. Cuccinelli was closing fast in the last week but didn't have enough time. [National Review Online, 11/6/13]

Wash. Times: "Virginia Election Shows Obamacare Can Be Used As Political Weapon." A November 6 Washington Times article claimed that "Kenneth T. Cuccinelli's campaign showed how much of a weapon Obamacare can be in the hands of the GOP":

"If we had had five more days, or 5 million more dollars, we would have won," said Michael McKenna, a Republican strategist in Virginia, who also said Tuesday's results will be studied by candidates heading into the next two federal elections. "Obamacare is toxic. Democratic senators up in either 2014 or 2016 are probably terrified at what happened in Virginia." [The Washington Times11/6/13]

Polls Show Obamacare Not A Significant Issue In VA

NBC News: "Obamacare Mattered In Virginia -- But Not In The Final Outcome."  A November 6 NBC report found that opposition to the ACA "didn't ultimately damage McAuliffe":

Did Obamacare play a role in last night's contest? Probably. Was it a decisive one? Nope.

First, let's look at the data from the exit polls:

-- Forty-six percent of Virginia voters said they supported the law, and McAuliffe won those voters by an 88 percent-to-6 percent clip.

-- By comparison, 53 percent said they opposed the law, and Cuccinelli won them, 81 percent to 11 percent. (That suggests that some of the opposition came from Democrats.)

-- While just 46 percent said they supported the health law, that percentage was higher than those who believe abortion shouldn't be legal in all or most cases (34 percent), as well as those who support for the Tea Party (28 percent).

-- And a quarter of Virginia voters said that health care was the ONE issue that mattered the most to them, and Cuccinelli only narrowly won those voters, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Bottom line from these statistics: The health-care law isn't popular, but that unpopularity didn't ultimately damage McAuliffe. [NBC News, 11/6/13]

Wash. Post: Exit Polls Show "Virginia Race Not A Referendum On Obamacare, After All." The Washington Post's Greg Sargent pointed out that exit polling showed that voters largely did not find health care to be a top issue and, of those who did, "only a bare plurality (49-45) supported Cuccinelli":

According to the exit polls, only 27 percent of Virginia voters saw the health law as the top issue, and among them, only a bare plurality (49-45) supported Cuccinelli. Far more (45 percent) named the economy.

[...]

It's certainly possible rollout problems shifted the outcome a bit; even some Virginia Dems believe this. But the unabashedly pro-Obamacare candidate still won the race. This, even though an unresolved Obamacare policy question -- whether the state should opt in to the Medicaid expansion -- was a key issue in yesterday's election, one that McAuliffe frequently cited, and even though the voting occurred at precisely the moment when the crush of anti-Obamacare press was about as bad as it can get.

If we must draw a conclusion about Obamacare here, it probably should be that scorched earth opposition to it isn't nearly as widespread or fervent as its foes claim. [The Washington Post11/6/13

Huffington Post: "Scant Evidence That Obamacare Actually Moved Numbers In Virginia Governor's Race." The Huffington Post reported that while Republicans claimed their polling showed the VA race closed because of opposition to Obamacare, GOP polling stopped weeks before the race. The post added that Democratic polling was much more stable showing Obamcare was not a large factor in the race, "it's not clear that in Virginia, Obamacare played the role some Republicans say it did." [The Huffington Post, 11/6/13]

Talking Points Memo: "Virginia As A Bellwether On Obamacare Is At Best Greatly Overstated." Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall reported that poll numbers and historical trends dispel the myth that the race was a referendum on Obamacare:

As I said, we're looking at the numbers. The most probative one I've seen so far is from the CNN version of the exit poll. 27% said "health care" was their most important issue. But the two candidates basically split those voters, with Cuccinelli holding a 4 point margin. In my mind that makes for a pretty thin argument that opposition to Obamacare drove this outcome.

We'll keep looking at the numbers because I don't think we yet have a sufficient handle on the data and the question. Send us what you come up with too. My initial sense is that Virginia as a bellwether on Obamacare is at best greatly overstated. And remember, at the end of the night, Cuccinelli lost. [Talking Points Memo, 11/6/13]

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